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Twitter could help shy students find their voice

Myriam Robin

Mon Jan 30 2012

twitter in the classrrom

HAVE you ever wanted to ask a question in class, but been too shy?

Two Australian academics have found that students, particularly international students, are more than happy to ask questions through twitter instead of speaking up.

Jeremy Novak, a lecturer with the South Cross Business School, and Michael Cowling, from Central Queensland University, presented their findings at the ISANA International Education Conference after testing the use of twitter in their classrooms.

“We wanted to see if there was a way for students to ask questions without having to put their hands up,” Mr Novak said.

“We found, particularly with international students, that there were plenty of times when students were too embarrassed or didn’t want to lose face by asking questions in front a group.”

“By using Twitter, simply as a ticker bar at the bottom of the lecturer’s power point presentation, students can ask questions anonymously, no matter how stupid they think their question is, and not get embarrassed.”

Novak and Cowling acknowledged in their presentation that not all lecturers know how to use twitter successfully, and it’s not fair to expect all students to have mobile access to twitter.

However, Novak said “this is not something that would be used by all students, but rather is just another way for lecturers or teachers to get feedback during a class.”

On ABC Radio, Cowling was asked whether it helped students if they graduated into the real world being only able to speak up through social media.

Cowling answered that twitter was the real world.

“To think it’s just a social world is a little naïve,” he said. “It can be used in work too.”

Novak said he didn’t see twitter replacing other forms of participation and interaction.

“But it could be a very valuable tool to add to the teacher’s toolbox.”

The same program interviewed Steve Ryan, President of the Queensland Teacher’s Union, who said that while he thought technology could often improve educational outcomes, he was concerned that it could mean students weren’t made comfortable enough to speak up.

“Students shouldn’t feel in any way threatened by not being able to put their hand up,” he said.

What do you think of using twitter in the classroom? Take our poll or tell us your views in the comments section below.

Would you use Twitter to ask questions in the classroom?

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